American Idol: The year these kids were born

by Ruth Anne Boulet

Oy. Nothing makes me want to get out my walker more than the annual ‘the year they were born’ edition. I was generally either in college or graduate school when this year’s crop was born. (And isn’t that master’s degree in journalism doing me well?)

But to begin Idol acknowledges the tragedies happening in Japan. Proceeds from downloads of tonight’s songs will go relief efforts. So if you want a song, buy it tonight. Or even better, just donate to the relief agencies directly, would ya?

Naima Adedapo — What’s Love Got to Do With It by Tina Turner
Naima was born in 1984. She does not make me feel old yet, except for the fact that my partner was her drama teacher in middle school. Ok, feeling old again. Naima wears those unfortunate boots the kids are into these days. They make one’s feet look like big old boats. I don’t know if this was the best song choice for her. She struggles a bit in parts. Steven says she’s got a sorcerers grasp on melody. Jennifer thinks Naima is consistently pitchy. Randy slams her for last week’s performance and says this week’s performance is again all over the place. Girl, keep it together.

Paul McDonald — I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues by Elton John
Paul again was born in 84 so I’m not reaching for the Triple Flex just yet. Would someone let that boy hold a guitar? He’s spazing all over the stage, seemingly not connecting with anything he’s saying. Kathy thinks he looks like a kid who has to go to the bathroom. Jennifer feels him but she thinks it sounded good. Really Jennifer? You slam Naima for her performance and you give Spastic McTwitchy a pass? Randy doesn’t give Paul a pass. Cold or no cold he’s got to bring it and get the notes right. Steven thinks Paul defines a cool dude in a loose mood. He likes his distinctness. Well he is distinct. They’re no denying that.

Thia Megia — Color of the Wind by Vanessa Williams
Ryan can barely keep it together that Thia was born in 1995. I was half-way through graduate school. I remember this song and thinking that no one wants to see the color of my wind. Can she sing something that isn’t in the Disney canon? Something totally unexpected like Kiss with a Fist from Florence + The Machine  or Stupid Girl from Garbage. I didn’t listen to anything she sang. It was pretty, la-la-la. Randy’s having a problem because he felt like he was at a pageant. He wants her to dig a little deeper. Steven wonders if that’s who Thia wants to be. She thinks it was the most appropriate of her choices. Jennifer wants her to break out too and work on her vibrato. Ryan points out that Peggy Blu the dragon vocal coach was there. Thia says Peggy was nice. Apparently Peggy wasn’t nice enough.

James Durbin — I’ll Be There For You by Bon Jovi
James was born in 1989 and he’s decided that the poop tail should make a triumphant comeback. He thinks Bon Jovi was killing it in the late 80s. I didn’t think Bon Jovi was killing it in that time period. In fact, I couldn’t change the channel fast enough when they came on the air. A friend of mine calls them Butt Jammie. James sings this song with all the charisma of a dude singing in his basement to Rock Band. For some reason he gets pyrotechnics. He so phoned that performance in. Steven says he’s got leftover sandwiches under his bed older than him. James shakes Steven’s hand and a large moment of silence occurs. Anyone? Which swears did Steven drop? Jennifer loved it. Randy loved it too. I think he’s the first singer to not get any negative feedback. Steven says James as a rich vein of inner crazy & Steven will perform with him. In the finale. Cough. Overconfidence. Cough.

Haley Reinhart — I’m Your Baby Tonight by Whitney Houston
Haley was born in 1990, the year I graduated high school & started college.  I’m relieved that she’s not doing a Whitney ballad. Honestly if I hear another ballad I’m going to fall asleep. But then Haley starts to sing. She’s got some weird baby-doll thing she’s doing with her voice and I’d like her to stop. She also can’t finish the word ‘anything.’ It comes out ‘anyth.’ She sounds like she’s trying to catch up for most of the song. She’s also dressed like she’s wandered away from a glee club – solid color shirt & black pants. She also got the mic too close to her mouth so she’s got lipstick all over her face. Sorry girl. You’re going to be modified when you look at yourself later. Can’t they send out someone to clean her up? Ryan is gallant enough to tell her. Thank you Ryan. Judges comments are useless except for Randy who calls her on her schizophrenic song choices. He doesn’t know what kind of artist she wants to be based on what she’s been singing thus far. Thank you Randy & Ryan.

Stefano Langone — If You Don’t Know Me By Now by Simply Red
Stefano was born in 1989 and his father looks like Harry Shearer. He disses songs like Girl You Know It’s True from Milli Vanilli and songs from NKOTB before they were NKOTB. I actually think Milli Vanilli would’ve been a good choice for his voice. Did you see the Behind the Music on those two? Sad. Very sad. We make no reference to the recently surfaced DUI he got a year after getting hit by a drunk driver. Stefano rushes through the song, including the line Jimmy Iovine told him was the key to the song. Stefano prefers to do a lot of whoo-woos and runs instead, including a really creaky last note. Randy thinks it was the best performance of the night. Steven thinks the phrasing was beautiful. Jennifer thinks it’s perfect but she wants more audience connection. No one mentions how he rushes the song or really crapped out that last note. Way to pimp judges. I want to hear some “I heard that back and…” tomorrow night.

Pia Toscano — Where Do Broken Hearts Go by Whitney Houston
Pia was born in 1988. Can she do something other than a ballad? Please? Pretty please with sugar on top? Nothing by Whitney Houston counts. I don’t care how mildly up-tempo it is. Can she never wear that pantsuit again? Kathy thinks she looks like she’s a member of The Sweeney Sisters. Her hair is even almost feathered enough. She’s a good singer, she just bores me. She walked a few steps. That was the extent of her movement. Steven thinks she’s why the show’s called American Idol. Jennifer is excited because she did an up-tempo song. Um, no, Jennifer it wasn’t. She did not go out of her comfort zone. Randy says Pia is in it to win it. Again, my song suggestions for Thia apply here as well. Tell me she’s singing Tori Amos and maybe I’ll get excited.

Scotty McCreery — Can I Trust You With My Heart by Travis Tritt
Scotty was born in 1993 so I need to turn up the TV because my hearing is failing. His parents join in with the Baby LockthemDoors singing. Scotty makes some comment to Jimmy Iovine about ‘building his fanbase by singing country.’ Oh, child. You’ve got a fan base for about 15 minutes after you get booted off American Idol unless you’ve got a strong work ethic and drive. Otherwise it’s going to be “Scotty who?” I try not to listen but one line is something about “a perfect union between a woman and a man” and I throw up a little in my mouth. Way to fire up the base. Jennifer thinks Scotty is growing. Randy name-drops that Travis is a friend and wants Scotty to take chances. Steven gives the non-critique of telling Scotty to keep growing. Thank you Paula.

Karen Rodriguez — Love Will Lead You Back by Taylor Dayne
Karen is dressed like she’s a part of the B-52s. She was born in 1989. Again, can she stop singing ballads? If she’s going to dress like Kate Pierson then she should be singing Shiny Happy People or something. She doesn’t want to be known as The Spanish Singer, but yet she feels the need to translate the song to Spanish for part of it. Steven loves her ethnicnessness. Randy thinks she’s back. Jennifer loves her attack. Whatever. She’s boring. She needs to show that she can perform a song & not just pageant-sing. See: Thia Megia, Pia Toscano.

Casey Abrams — Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana
Casey was born in 1991 & had older parents. I can relate Casey. My parents were also older. Casey’s parents are a riot, like Casey. Jimmy Iovine hopes the audience will ‘get it.’ It’s not like he’s singing opera or anything Jimmy. It was a hit 20 years ago. Casey’s got a bass so I assume Paul wasn’t banned from playing a guitar. Maybe he should pick one up. Casey however needs to break out of his maniacal screaming style of singing. He also threw in some Manson-esque random intense stares. I get it, but it wasn’t musical at all. I think he would’ve done better with the Unplugged version. Steven thinks Casey is made of great goop. Jennifer thought he got a little screamy-screetchy. Casey fishes for a sexy comment. Randy thinks Casey puts art first & then thinks commerce. He likes Casey’s fearlessness. I do too. Now just mix it up a bit boy. And don’t need another transfusion. It’s scary.

Lauren Alaina — I’m The Only One by Melissa Etheridge
Lauren has the flu & gives Ryan a mask & can’t stop giggling. Lauren was born in 1994 when I graduated college. The producer thinks she’s killing the song. Jimmy tells her to focus on the job at hand. She’s doing better tonight until she talks to the audience & commands them to scream. Stop that Lauren. You’re more appealing when you’re not being overconfident, like a lot of performers this year. Jennifer thinks Lauren made it her own. I didn’t hear that much of a difference between the original. Randy thinks she needs to get sick more often. Steven thinks she’s a shining star. Blah. The judges don’t do well under pressure.

Jacob Lusk — Alone by Heart
Jacob was born in 1987. Mom thinks Jacob gets his voice from her. Jacob is horrified that his mother sang on national television. Jacob acknowledges that he’s got to shake things up. Thank you Jacob. He’s got a very 80s jacket — half Members Only, half Adam Ant. He can’t resist throwing in a gospely ‘yeah’ where it’s not needed, but by and large sticks with song as it’s written. It forces him to pay attention to what he’s singing. He isn’t always able to hit the notes, which is what he needs to focus on. Randy thinks it’s very nice even though he lost himself in the middle. Steven says momma gave him moxie. Jennifer thinks he gives himself to his performances. Now Jacob just has to give himself to being disciplined enough to learn the notes without throwing runs in when you can’t hit it.

So who’s cuisine will reign supreme tonight? It’ll be a tough call, but I’d like to see some of the overconfident ones to get a scare in them. Many contestants look like they could use it. I just hope next week someone does something that’s actually exciting. Come on Idol. Let’s give them a theme that’s actually challenging. Please?